Mice Do Not Habituate to Metabolism Cage Housing: A Three Week Study of Male BALB/c Mice

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Otto Kalliokoski, Kirsten Rosenmaj Jacobsen, Huda Shalahudin Darusman, Trine Henriksen, Allan Weimann, Henrik Enghusen Poulsen, Jann Hau, Klas Abelson

The metabolism cage is a barren, non-enriched, environment, combining a number of recognized environmental stressors. We investigated the ability of male BALB/c mice to acclimatize to this form of housing. For three weeks markers of acute and oxidative stress, as well as clinical signs of abnormality were monitored. Forced swim tests were conducted to determine whether the animals experienced behavioral despair and the serotonergic integrity was tested using an 8-OH-DPAT challenge. The metabolism cage housed mice excreted approximately tenfold higher amounts of corticosterone metabolites in feces throughout the study when compared to controls. Urinary biomarkers confirmed that these mice suffered from elevated levels of oxidative stress, and increased creatinine excretions indicated increased muscle catabolism. Changes in the core body temperature (stress-induced hyperthermia) and the fur state of the mice also indicated impaired well-being in the metabolism cage housed mice. However, monitoring body weight and feed intake was found misleading in assessing the wellbeing of mice over a longer time course, and the forced swim test was found poorly suited for studying chronic stress in mice in the present setup. In conclusion, the mice were found not to acclimatize to the metabolism cages whereby concern for animal welfare would dictate that mice should be housed in this way for as short periods as possible. The elevated degree of HPA axis activity, oxidative stress, and increased overall metabolism warrant caution when interpreting data obtained from metabolism cage housed mice, as their condition cannot be considered representative of a normal physiology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalP L o S One
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2013

ID: 46287330